Guide to Parking in Dubai

Dubai is a bustling city located in the northern part of the United Arab Emirates. One of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, it is home to well over 3 million people and is the biggest city in the UAE. With its stunning skyscrapers, luxurious hotels and resorts, and magnificent beaches, it is no wonder that it attracts enormous amounts of tourists every year. In fact, in 2019, it was the seventh most popular tourist destination with over 16 million visitors. 

Regardless of whether you live or visit Dubai, getting around the city is a significant portion of the day. Dubai is a tourist destination, so everywhere you go, you have to factor in and consider parking and long queues, which often means leaving your home much earlier in order to secure a parking space. That is why we’ve compiled a guide to how parking in Dubai works and what are the best ways to park your car with the least amount of hassle possible. For those who live in Dubai, parking is tied very closely to the quality of life and has an impact on everyday lives, whether heading to work, shopping or a restaurant to meet friends and family. For visitors, knowing what the parking processes look like enables quicker parking, so the focus can be on the holidays and experiencing all that Dubai has to offer. So, where should you park in Dubai?

Public Parking

The main challenge with public parking in Dubai is not getting fined for overstaying at your parking space.  

Public parking in UAE belongs to municipalities, which means that the government of every city controls public parking. In Dubai, there is an effective system in place that relies on manual monitoring by parking officers who walk around with a tech device that enables them to check if someone has paid for parking or not. 

When using public parking in Dubai, you have to prepay for your spot, and the good news is that public parking rates are very affordable. However, it’s easy to forget you have to renew your parking, so many people get fined by a parking officer. The fine for not paying at all is larger than the fine for overstaying, but it is still a fine, and it’s definitely cheaper to pay the parking rate. 

It’s important to remember to renew your parking space, even though it’s not the most convenient thing, in order to avoid those fines. When you use public parking, you will get 15-minute reminders that come in the form of text messages or notifications from a mobile application, but they’re easy to miss if you’re out and about and not paying attention to your phone. To solve this problem, some people pay for more hours than they actually need in advance, so they avoid overstaying fines, and although this is cheaper than paying fines, it still involves spending unnecessary money. 

The best way to handle this is to figure out what works best for you. If text messages are not an effective reminder, then try out another way of reminding yourself, such as using a reminder app or even some psychological tricks such as saying what you need out loud as this often improves your chances of remembering something.

Private Parking

The private parking lots in Dubai are usually underground, multilevel facilities that require paying with cash machines most of the time. Those machines which accept cards rarely work, and this is definitely an inconvenience, especially during the COVID pandemic, since people don’t really carry cash on them as much as they used to. Additionally, if you come straight from the bank and have new coins, the machines will have trouble accepting them, so sometimes you have to rub them on the cash machine to make them seem older and used. 

Although the facilities are well organised, especially in new infrastructures, and offer a “Find my Car” machine, there is no clear navigation system that guides drivers to available parking spaces, which can make using a multilevel parking facility quite complicated. Another downside is that because private parking facilities rely on paper tickets, which you scan at a machine inside the lot instead of at the exit, it’s easy to lose them and have trouble leaving the facility and have to pay a fine. The parking fees are also less affordable than public parking.

Parking at the Office

When applying for a new job, people around the world might inquire about growth opportunities, the company’s work culture or what the day-to-day looks like in the position, and while this is also important for candidates in Dubai, something they always have on their mind is the parking options available. That is because parking at the office is very often a struggle, and those who have worked at multiple companies in Dubai know this very well. 

A majority of the companies in Dubai is international and spread out across various countries. That means the company offices in Dubai are in shared buildings, and the company parking lots in Dubai are in shared facilities. The only exceptions are those companies that are factory or lab based in the city. That creates a lot of problems for both employees and parking administrators. Unfortunately, employees are often left to figure the parking out on their own. 

Companies often have a designated parking zone for their employees and executives, but that is usually not enough for a smooth and simple parking process. The total number of parking spaces is dependent on the total number of employees. Still, the amount of offered parking is usually about half the necessary amount. That is because parking carriers with it such high costs for companies. 

When companies have their designated parking zone on the mainland, there is a necessity of having a local partner in this deal, who then gets 51% of the revenue. Additionally, there are often not enough parking spaces to accommodate every single employee. In the case of Free Zone parking, there is no need of having a local partner, but on the other hand, this type of parking carries with it higher costs of rent and parking, and on top of that, it also comes with multiple restrictions. 

As can be seen here, company parking is complicated and can pose many issues on an everyday basis. When you are applying for a new job, regardless of whether you are a resident of Dubai or are moving there to seek new opportunities, always ask about the parking options the company offers during each job interview. 

Here at NaviParking, we quickly became aware of the existing parking problem at corporations and designed a parking solution specifically for them. NaviParking Enterprise enables the optimisation and monetisation of parking lots and simplifies the parking process for parking administrators in the form of a web dashboard and employees in the form of a simple and easy-to-use mobile application. Learn more about NaviParking Enterprise here.

Hospital Parking

The good news is that for patients and visitors of big hospitals in Dubai, parking comes with no additional cost. The parking lots are free to use, large and spacious, and offer many parking spaces. However, implementing technological solutions and digitalisation of parking lots are not the norm. (Yet!) The importance of digitalisation has been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic as safety has become a key factor in all parts of daily life. Limiting the contact of visitors with external surfaces and parking staff is a crucial solution to ensure the safety of patients, visitors and medical professionals in the vicinity of hospitals. 

We recently implemented such a solution at NMC Medical Centre in UAE that enables a quick and easy exit from the parking lot after an appointment with the use of a QR code in our app, NaviPay. Learn more about NaviPay here.

Airport Parking

All airports in Dubai have designated parking, but the cost of using them is very high. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to pick up a relative or a friend from the airport, and you find out their flight is delayed, it is best to leave the parking lot in order to not accumulate unnecessary costs and come back closer to the new landing time.

Residential Parking

The parking zones near residential areas are public. Unfortunately, they are also mostly outdoor parking zones, which poses problems with the hot temperatures Dubai experiences. These parking zones rely on subscription-based parking payments and vary depending on the area.

Parking at Stores and Restaurants

At stores and restaurants, parking for customers and guests is free, but only if it gets validated. When heading out to do some shopping at stores or visiting a restaurant, it’s important to remember to get this validation from the store or restaurant before you leave in order to avoid paying any costs for parking.

High-Class Restaurant and Hotel Parking

In Dubai, high-class restaurants and hotels offer valet parking services, which means you can leave the responsibility of parking your car to someone else, a person called a valet, whose job it is to park your car and then bring it back in front of the venue when you’re ready to leave.

Parking on Sand

If you happen to explore the UAE as a whole and find yourself in Sharjah, a city about 50 kilometres away from Dubai, you will come across some unique parking regulations. Since Sharjah has an enormous amount of sand area throughout the entire city, the rule is if you park on sand, it’s free parking. That might sound like the perfect solution, as free parking often does, but you have to remember to be careful when parking on the sand. There is no specific lining on the sand and no marked spaces, so it’s easy for cars to get hit or blocked by other vehicles. Additionally, during summer, the sand gets extremely hot. Still, parking on sand is very popular in Sharjah.

To summarise, here are some quick tips:

  • Always remember to pay your parking fees
  • Plan your ride and leave early, if you have to
  • Take advantage of valet parking at high-class restaurants and hotels
  • Have cash on you (we’re aware that this is difficult during COVID)
  • Make sure you get parking validation from stores and restaurants
  • When at a job interview, inquire about parking
  • Take into consideration that the less you want to pay, the more difficult parking is

When planning to take a trip to Dubai, a holiday or a business one, it’s helpful to figure out how you’re going to get around the city and whether you will be using a personal vehicle or not. If you’ll be using a personal car, after deciding on your preferred type of parking based on the above guide, our NaviParking app will help you find parking near you. However, if you plan on getting around using public transportation, try our luxury service, the Dubai Tesla Experience, and get around Dubai in the comfort of a Tesla. Find out more about DTE here.

Klaudia Żychowska

Klaudia Żychowska is a Polish native who grew up in Chicago. After completing a Bachelor’s Degree in English with a double concentration in Creative Writing and Professional Writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago, she decided to move back to Poland to reconnect with her roots. She is fascinated by smart cities and innovative technologies and is responsible for content strategy at NaviParking.

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